March 3, 2012

American Airpower Museum

The headlines from the Pittsburgh Press on Tuesday, January 6, 1942 read: "Roosevelt Pledges Total War -- Huge Output Of Planes And Tanks Ordered."

That single sentence is the entire reason for the existence of a place like the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale, NY. While I have visited quite a few air museums over the years, this one is unique in that its exhibits are dedicated completely to the machines of WWII. As I entered the main hangar, my eyes were met by a small squadron of sparkling aircraft separated by displays of various forms of military equipment. I couldn't help but think about the places these planes have been and the action they have seen. When I sat at the controls of a Beech 18/C-45, I could almost feel its history beneath my fingertips as I imagined myself flying a mission over some remote part of Germany or Japan. I could see cloud cover all around me and hear the steady rumble of the engines. A wave of awe and fear broke over me as I spotted enemy planes on the horizon, firing volleys at me. I could feel the horrors of air battle as planes began to burst into flames and drop from the skies.

Running down the center of the hangar is a wall of photographs and newspaper clippings from the era. As I perused the faces of these young pilots from the past, I wondered if they knew in that moment the way that their bravery would help to sway the outcome of the war. I tried to see if I could recognize a sense of importance in their expressions and I think that I could see it. The best novel that I've ever read on the subject is called "Flyboys" by James Bradley. Remembering some of the intense accounts relayed in the book very much increased my appreciation for the museum and its exhibits. It is a read that I highly recommend.

Next, I came to my most-enjoyed section of the museum. In a series of display cases, several detailed, miniature dioramas depicting maneuvers of historical significance are set up. The cases were labels with such titles as "Raid On Rabaul," "Capture Of The U-505," "Wing And A Prayer, " and "Finding the 'Lady Be Good.'" Today, may your soul fly the friendly skies with power and dignity. Cheers!

"Know therefore that the LORD your God is God;
he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love
to a thousand generations of those who love him
and keep his commands."

~Deuteronomy 7:9